Today, the Arctic is changing faster than any other region in the world. Sea ice is melting quicker and the open ocean is lasting longer than at any time in human history. Open water is darker colored than ice, so it collects more heat, leading to further melt in a downward spiral. In 2012, summer sea ice retreated to its lowest recorded extent. While 2013’s ice cover did not fall to the lows of 2012, it was still well below historical averages and maintains a downward trend. While scientists disagree on how soon it will happen, it now appears clear that the Arctic Ocean has passed a tipping point that will eventually lead to completely ice-free summers.
The cause of the ice melt is clear — global climate change caused by the emissions of fossil fuels.
Although climate change will have devastating effects on certain regions, including to many of Alaska’s ecosystems and the people who rely on them, the retreat of sea ice presents two main opportunities that could benefit the people of Alaska: increased access to energy resources under the water’s surface and increased transportation through the Arctic Ocean.
He offers prescriptions that include international cooperation and also an increased U.S. military presence in order to combat the effects of climate change in the region while still taking advantage of the new opportunities.
Be sure to read the full op-ed at Alaska Dispatch.
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